We are thrilled to be able to sit down with Matthew R. Davis, author of the disturbing story "The Waiting Room" in our newest anthology It Calls From the Doors.
Without giving away the story, tell us a little bit about the story you have in this collection Doors. What was your inspiration?
I don’t recall the initial inspiration, but the core idea had been kicking around for a couple of years. “The Waiting Room” is in a similar vein to Stephen King’s “1408”, which is about all I can say without spoiling any surprises. (Simple addition will show how Room 409 is a tip of the hat to that tale.) It took me a while to work out who would be the focal point of this story, and also to come up with an ending that didn’t seem obvious and inevitable. The ruined hotel was easy to conjure, as I’ve done a lot of urbexing with my partner – certainly easier than portraying life in a corporate office environment, with which I have little personal experience! I’m happy with the way “The Waiting Room” turned out and I look forward to sharing this tale of Avantika Kapoor’s otherworldly encounter with you all. Yes, all of you – you’ve been told, now go buy the book. (Please. Thank you.)
What’s your best revenge on the page story to tell us? i.e have you tortured your boss? Killed your MIL?
Despite the freedom to wreak havoc on fictional versions of people I don’t like, I’ve managed to largely avoid taking passive revenge through the written word. That’s not to say I haven’t succumbed to the temptation on occasion, though, and a few particularly odious individuals have had their comeuppance in my work! The most egregious example would be in “George Romero Doomed Us All”, which will see publication in the near future – I’ve got a real (perhaps literal) axe to grind with my partner’s shitty ex, so having him torn limb from limb on the page was a satisfying experience.
Are there tropes, particularly those about women in horror, you actively avoid in your writing?
Yes, I try to avoid all tropes as much as possible. As for women in horror – I’ve read a few books that made me wonder if the author has ever met an actual woman, and that kind of reductive writing really irks me. I generally find women to be more interesting and worthy than men – sorry, boys, you do have your moments! – and I understand that their daily experience and very existence so often brushes up against horrors I could scarcely imagine, so I’m set on presenting them in an honest, empathetic light whether they’re everyday heroines, deeply flawed battlers, or outright bad apples. I’m proud to say that female readers really seem to relate to what I do – my fellow Aussie scribe Chris Mason once told me “you get us”, which is rather validating on both personal and artistic levels.
Who is one underappreciated indie horror author we should all check out?
Surely you don’t expect me to stop at one? From dozens I could name, have a random five: Gordon B. White, Scarlett R. Algee, Zachary Ashford, C.L. Raven, Damian Murphy.
How do you position your horror fiction when selling to agents, publications, etc. to ensure it's not relegated to just "genre fiction?"
I’m very keen to convince people that their preconceived notions of horror fiction are probably too dismissive of the field’s broad scope and potential for profundity, so I like to emphasise its literary and humanistic aspects. My own work is far more than mere hack n’ slash (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) and I like to think it addresses the human experience in a genuine, substantial manner. It’s every bit as relevant and meaningful as mainstream or literary fiction, there just happens to be the occasional brutal death or horrifying revenant involved – and really, isn’t that true of all our lives in some way?
Tell us about the first piece of writing you had published and how that impacted you?
Well, if you go back to when I was thirteen, my first actual publication was the irreverent SF piece “Time and the Bible”, which won a short story contest and appeared in the local paper – that was a real moment of vindication for my obsessions! My first professional publication came many years later with the aptly-titled “Debutante”, which appeared alongside authors such as Tom Piccirilli and Alison Littlewood and marked what seemed to be an auspicious beginning – “you’ll be hearing more of him”, I bragged of myself in my bio, before promptly disappearing into the wilderness of sporadic micro-press publication as if to refute my own words. But “Debutante” has worn its years well, causing a few readers to claim it “broke” them, and I was proud enough of it to accord it the opening spot in my collection – hence my first published story became the first tale in my first book.
You wake up in a dark unfamiliar room. You don’t know how you got there or where you are. There is a nightstand beside you with one item on it. What is that item?
The darkness is barely touched by the opening of my eyes, as if another set of lids remains to be lifted. I can see little of the room in which I have found myself, and I recognise nothing. The only thing of note that penetrates the shadow is the crimson pyramid standing on the nightstand beside me, maybe made of glass and maybe not, which is unlit and yet seems to beam through the black like it’s the only real object in this room – more tangible than the life I’ve lived, than the memories that have made me what I call me. Perhaps if I touch it, I will learn something that outweighs the sum of knowledge I have attained thus far; perhaps I will discover where I am, why, even who. My fingers creep unseen to the nightstand, revealed only when they spread over the gleaming angles of this enigma, and their tips touch a surface neither warm nor cold. The shadows fall upon me afresh, only now they are as red and thick as my own blood, and if I learn anything it is immediately wiped away by the crashing waves of endless, immutable time. I have never been here at all. I will never leave.
Matthew R. Davis is an author and musician based in Adelaide, South Australia. He was recently shortlisted for a Shirley Jackson Award and the WSFA Small Press Award, has won two Australian Shadows Awards, and is regularly shortlisted for the Shadows and the Aurealis Awards. His first collection of horror stories, If Only Tonight We Could Sleep, was released by Things in the Well in 2020; his first novel, Midnight in the Chapel of Love, was published by JournalStone in 2021. Find out more at matthewrdavisfiction.wordpress.com.